Once upon a time, in a kingdom rather far away from here, there was a young man who was due to be drafted into military service. As was common for those times there was a war going on and all the young men were forced to serve in the army. Young Frederick had studied and trained very hard to learn the sword, the bow, and the quarterstaff, but he never seemed to get the hang of it. As a matter of fact, a number of lives were saved because no one would allow him to practice with a real sword.
As you might well imagine, Frederick had tried everything he knew to improve his skills. He practiced, he got coaching, he prayed. And, nothing had worked. He was beginning to get a little desperate, because not only was his life on the line, but the honor of his family and his village. He wondered, what could he do?! Then he remembered the stories about the wise old man at the top of Sawtooth hill, who, it was rumored, was a wizard.
Frederick was scared of wizards, and rightly so. They had a reputation of being moody as well as powerful, but where else could he turn? “Well, I’ll go ask him for help,” he said to himself, and walked directly up Sawtooth hill to the old man’s door. At the sound of Frederick’s knock there was a stirring inside.
The old man opened the door, which creaked slightly on its leather hinges, looked at Frederick as if seeing right through him, and asked, “Well, young man, what brings you knocking on my door?”
Frederick’s story came tumbling out. He was no warrior, he was going to bring disgrace to himself and the village, and would the old man please, please help him. Listening quietly yet with an underlying intensity, the old man nodded from time to time as the young man told his tale. “Perhaps you might be worthy,” the old man said, and disappeared into the darkness of his small house.
At those words, desperation and fear turned into uncertainty, then into hope and curiosity. “Worthy? Worthy of what?”, wondered Frederick. From inside the house came rummaging sounds as the old man was going through the clutter that all wizards seemed to accumulate in their magical doings, searching for something…. “Ah! Here it is.”
In a few moments, the old man returned, carrying something in his left hand with an air of reverence. “Hold out your hand, young man,” he commanded. And, as Frederick did the old man placed onto it a smooth, round, cool rock, saying, “Young man, this is a magic stone. With it you will be invincible as a warrior, and no enemy will be able to stand before you.” And, with that he turned to go back into his house.
“Wait! How can I ever repay you?” asked Frederick. And, slightly turning, the old man replied, “Just go and be a credit to your family and to the village, that is all I ask,” and with that he quietly shut the door behind him.
When Frederick went into the army he had been transformed. He was masterful with a sword, and indeed no enemy could stand before him. He became a great warrior, winning battle after battle. Promotions came quickly and easily, and all was well with him. Until that fateful day, when returning from battle Frederick realized that the pouch in which he carried the magic stone was gone. He searched everywhere, first systematically, then with growing frustration. The battlefield was huge, how could he ever find such a small stone? The stone was gone for good. “What can I do?”, he asked himself. And an image of the old man came into his mind.
He jumped on his horse and rode all the weary way back to his home village. And, not even stopping to greet his family, he rode directly to the door of the old man cottage on Sawtooth hill. Frederick knocked again on the door of the old man. When the old man opened the door, he looked through Frederick again with his peculiar gaze and said, “So young warrior, you have done well for yourself. Your deeds have brought honor to your family and the village. What brings you to my door this day?”
Just as before, the story came tumbling out of Frederick. The stone was gone. Did the old man have another one? Could he please, please help Frederick once again? Listening intently and nodding quietly from time to time, the old man waited until the young warrior’s tale was told. Then he smiled for the first time. “Young man, there never was any magic in that stone. It was you that accomplished all that you have done. You have proven yourself worthy without even realizing it. Now, come in for a cup of tea and tell me of your adventures.”
As Frederick and the old man talked late into the night, Frederick came to realize that real magic is of the mind, and of the heart. He had learned to make the magic for himself without even knowing it. And it was only during the old man’s gentle conversation, that he realized how fully he had made the magic his own, and that he would continue to learn and do more with his as yet undiscovered abilities as time goes on.